Before Drama Night 2015 on the 2nd April were months of preparation, late nights, grueling rehearsals in the hallowed halls of the PT.
A typical scene during the rehearsals leading up to the main performance had played out as follows: onstage, the actors recreate segments, reworking dialogue and blocking (theatre term for stage movements), occasionally taking suggestions from Mr. B, one of VJ’s drama teachers. A glimpse in the shadows backstage unveils crew members donned in black religiously studying scripts by torchlight, the floor littered with an assortment of props and annotated scripts. Actors watch those onstage attentively, preparing for their next entrance.
The sheer amount of dedication required to undertake such a task cannot be understated; nevertheless the friendships and experiences gained, more than made up for the undone homework and the sleepless nights. As stage manager Kimberly ruminated, “[the] most challenging part is the lack of time and actually doing such a big production for the first time.” During the first few onstage rehearsals, the crew was plagued by misplaced props, late entrances, and a general sense of bewilderment. Even up till the very last rehearsal, set changes were still being made and lines were still being finalised. Yet, she added, “when drama night ended successfully it was also very touching to know our hard work paid off and we ended our last production with a bang.”
The production was the satisfying result of the collaboration between the cast, stage crew, PA crew, ushers and the teachers-in-charge, Mr. B and Ms. Lim. Everyone had played their part to keep the production running smoothly.
Before the production, all the props – from the coffin to the horses to the shield – had to be made from scratch. Costumes had to be obtained, whether dug out from the glass room or borrowed from various members of cast and crew.
Members had the opportunity to hand-make these props, such as the horses, by taping the newspaper together, sawing and stripping the poles of their plastic wrapping, and spray painting the heads. The coffin was made of cardboard boxes taped together, and Rafe’s helmet was made of simple silver and black paper. The fragility of the props made them prone to some form of damage occasionally, but this was easily rectified by tape from a toolbox backstage.
For several weeks before the production, the actors were hard at work rehearsing the play. They started off slowly, doing line-reading (technical term for reading the script aloud in character without acting it out) for a while before they began interpreting their lines. Still, steady progress was being made. The blocking that was directed gave them a basic scaffold but did not fully dictate their movements, allowing them room to improvise and add even more humour to an already “laugh-out-loud” play.
One problem faced was that some roles were left empty for a great period of time, and the people who would fill them – the J1s – would only enter the CCA 3 weeks before the production, leaving very little time for them to learn their parts and develop good chemistry with the existing cast. Even the J2s had trouble fully immersing themselves in their characters as earlier rehearsals consisted primarily of “line-reading”, while little effort was put into improving the play as a whole. For Isaac, who played Jasper, the most challenging part was getting into character during and before rehearsals, as “its is no easy feat to act as a character in love, especially one in love with Lucy”, adding that “eye contact and body language were huge obstacles” that he and Anthea had to navigate.
Additionally, the cast, and not just the audience, struggled with the language. The difficulty many of the main cast had in memorising their lines was an obstacle they had to overcome, especially as the play was from the sixteenth century. As Lisa, who played the grocer, said, they had to ‘search for the meanings of various words and phrases’ to understand the piece better. Pertina, who played the grocer’s wife, admitted that she “didn’t actually memorize [her] lines fully until a few days before the performance”, while Reuben, who played Rafe, mentioned that it was ‘not the Singlish that [he was] used to all [his] life’, a rather apt description considering the archaic language used posed problems to many.
The common sentiment amongst the J1 cast members on what made the experience most fulfilling was the bonds forged with their peers. As Megan, who played one of the horsemen, commented, the most memorable part for her was when the horsemen “came together to cheer each other on”, while Liying, who played Michael, expressed her gratitude to her fellow cast member as “things got a lot better with Celia helping [her] out” in her debut performance.
One common gripe expressed by most, was the difficulty in selling tickets, especially for the crew and ushers. Furthermore, the fact that Drama Night was the first in the string of annual school performances meant that members had the shortest amount of time to sell their tickets. To provide some motivation, the carrot dangled by the EXCO was to sell “5 more tickets to earn your class lunch” after the J1s’ Feeling Fab Day activities. Nevertheless, their fears were unfounded as this year, VJ Drama hit record sales of over 400 tickets, receiving an audience bigger than any preceding production.
Despite this being the last production for the J2s, the curtain call did not terminate their interest in drama. Melissa, who played Old Master Merrythought, affirmed that “this will not be the last time I am going to be performing on stage” and she would “definitely continue [her] passion in the future”. Kimberly, head of crew, echoed her sentiments, commenting that she “doesn’t feel like it’s over”, while Isaac expressed his excitement for what VJ Drama “will be up to for SNL and Drama Night 2016”.
Reuben, vice-chairman of VJ Drama, expressed that he was “definitely nostalgic”, given that this was his last production, and he added, “Now, I…also feel more relieved to pass on this CCA to you all juniors as I know it will be in safe hands and you all will do us proud. I will definitely miss Drama, the people, the teachers and the memories.”
Yeong Su Ann
Photo Source: S Lawanya (14S42)